I cannot pinpoint the exact moment in time that I knew I wanted to become a writer. I just know that I have always loved to read and from about the fourth grade, I wanted to write.
There were many places — both real and imaginary — that fed my love of reading. Narnia, Middle Earth, Walnut Grove, Prince Edward Island. And there were authors: Susan Cooper, Madeline L’Engle, Enid Blyton, Author Ransome, Elizabeth Goudge. There were characters I fell in love with, there were styles of writing that I adored, and others that I found irritating or dull. There were turns of phrase, and words too, that changed my vocabulary, causing one friend in college to remark, “Gretchen, you have an entirely different vocabulary than I do.”
A few years ago I was visiting family in Washington State and I got in touch, if you will, with part of my literary history. For about 10 years, I had been searching for one of my favorite childhood books. Every so often I’d go to the Internet to have a look. Only trouble was, I couldn’t remember the title, let alone the author. I thought the title was “The Mystery of the Hidden Staircase,” but every time I searched for any variety of that title (The Mystery of the Lost Staircase, The Hidden Stairs, The Mysterious Staircase) my search would uncover only Nancy Drew books.
I even went so far as to inquire from a bookseller once if the book he was selling was set in Quebec and contained chapter titles about staircases. He never responded.
I did hold out one glimmer of hope over the years. My niece. Trouble was, she kept moving and shifting her stuff around. She told me she knew she had a couple boxes of children’s books in storage and that when she could, she’d pull them out for me to look through. Finally it worked out that I was in Washington when the book boxes were available. My heart was literally pounding as I opened the first box.
I found lots of great books! But not the book. Then I opened the second box. I lifted out a book. Nope. I set aside a few more. Then I took out a faded gray, thin, hardback book.
"The Mystery of Lonsome Manor," by Harriet Evatt.
Nothing about staircases. But I knew it was the one. I shouted in the middle of my niece’s living room, “I found it!”
I didn’t cry. I didn’t hug it to my chest. I stood up from my place on the floor, walked to my purse, put the book inside and zipped it shut. It rode home with me in my carry-on, not in the large Huggies Diaper box full of books that we checked as luggage.
You may be thinking that I read immediately. Nope. I savored it first. I finished the book I was currently reading simply because I loved the feeling of knowing I had the book. I even let my daughter start reading it on the plane.
And then, the afternoon of our first day home, I began to read. I finished it before bed.
I was not disappointed.
Oh, it’s a little politically incorrect, it’s a wee bit old-fashioned and it’s very abrupt in its mystery-solving (no prolonged searches or plot twists), but it’s simple and sweet and a wee bit exciting and definitely a little mysterious. I love it.
And that’s why I write. There is so much garbage in the world. I want to bring a different perspective. Some sunshine to the gloom. I want to be simple and sweet (though not saccharine) and maybe, if God grants me the words, even profound.
And all that I write, I pray, is to the glory and honor of God. Even if it’s not overtly Christian in nature. It doesn’t matter what we do: writing or selling merchandise or keeping record books or mowing lawns…all of it, everything we do, can and should be done as unto the Lord. He’s The Man we’re working for.
“Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters…He is the one you are really working for.” Colossians 3:23, 24 TLB
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.